Tuesday, 20 November 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
83. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the President-elect of Brazil, Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, has stated he will merge the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply and the Ministry of the Environment in Brazil; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this would be a huge attack on environmental protections in Brazil and pose a huge risk to the Amazon, which would be an environmental catastrophe for the planet; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that environmental defenders and land rights activists are increasingly under serious threat in Brazil; and if he will discuss the issue with his Brazilian counterpart. [48136/18]
I referred to the fact that a far-right fascist was the President-elect of Brazil in a parliamentary question tabled for written reply on 6 November. Mr. Bolsonaro's campaign was based on fear, division, racism, sexism and homophobia. He poses a major threat to human rights protections, indigenous communities and, as outlined in this parliamentary question, the environment. The Minister has refused to condemn his far-right policies or even to state his concern in response to my question. Perhaps he might do so now.
Mr. Jair Bolsonaro was elected as President of Brazil on 28 October and will be inaugurated on 1 January 2019. Officials in my Department in Dublin, at the Irish Embassy in Brasília and the Consulate-General in São Paulo followed the election process closely and have continued to monitor political developments since, including proposals the incoming government is considering. It is important to note that the full plan of the new government will not be clear until after President-elect Bolsonaro assumes office on 1 January. The President-elect has stated some final decisions on government policy and the structure of individual ministries, including those to which the Deputy referred, will not be made until he is in office. He has indicated that he longer wishes to merge the agriculture and environment ministries which has reassured many. I am aware of the difficult situation for many environmental and land rights activists in Brazil and throughout Latin America and my Department continues to monitor the issue closely. I wholeheartedly condemn any act of violence or intimidation against peaceful activists or civil society actors. I call on all relevant stakeholders to respect these groups’ rights to engage in a free and open civil society space, which is essential in a functioning democracy. Officials at the Irish Embassy in Brasília and the Consulate-General in São Paulo and in our offices in Dublin engage regularly with civil society groups and human rights defenders present on the ground in Brazil, including environmental and land rights groups.
Ireland will continue to monitor developments closely, as well as continuing to engage with EU and local partners and raising these issues at EU and UN level, as appropriate. However, I do not think there is anything to be gained for Ireland by slagging someone off before he even takes office. He was democratically elected. Of course, if decisions are taken in Brazil with which we have a fundamental difficulty, I will not be shy in being vocal about them, but he is not even President yet.
I come from a position of concern. I see his election as a clear threat to democracy in Brazil. He was a captain in the military during the brutal dictatorship and said its only crime was that it did not kill enough people. He has called indigenous communities "parasites", called for tens of thousands of his opponents to be arrested and the police to extrajudicially kill more people and told a Senator famous for promoting human rights that she was too ugly to be raped. That is the type of individual about whom we are talking, yet the Minister suggests he should remain silent and has no comment to make yet on any of these actions. Last week the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence heard from the representative of an NGO in Brazil. She detailed the extreme fear Mr. Bolsonaro had created in the country. In his written reply to me the Minister stated: "Ireland looks forward to maintaining our strong relationship with Brazil in the future and will continue efforts to advance our interests and values in our engagement with the new government." Is any of it based on human rights due diligence? Last November the Minister launched a national plan on business and human rights, but in his written reply to me there was no mention of human rights. I am concerned about where this is going.
He is not the President of Brazil yet. The job of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is to have appropriate relations with countries around the world. I do not write off our entire relationship with Brazil because we disagree. Clearly, I disagree with much of what he has said but he is the Brazilian President-elect who has been democratically elected and we will judge him on the decisions that he makes once he is President.
Our job is to look out for Ireland's value system and our interests. This is a very large country in South America. In many ways, it is one of the world's superpowers. Ireland will reach out and try and work with people, even if we disagree with them.
The Sinn Féin approach is to just shut people off if they do not agree with the party's perspective. We try to win the argument with these people rather than write them off before they take office.
It is a different approach. I suppose the Tánaiste might have a different approach to dealing with fascism than I have. It is not the case that Sinn Féin's approach is not to deal with people.
I am glad the Tánaiste stated he does not agree with some of the Brazilian President-elect's policies. The Brazilian President-elect's policies and what he stated in the run-up to that election were appalling. Anyone in his or her right mind would say that what the Brazilian President-elect was saying was wrong. Where a person who is running for public office asks for extrajudicial killing, is homophobic, racist, sows fear and division, and states that more people needed to be killed during the military junta, how could anyone have any empathy with a President-elect like that?
Ireland is concerned about its exports and so on.
My job, as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, is to uphold Irish values and to look for Irish interests in terms of the relationships that we have abroad. Of course, there is concern about the direction that politics has taken in Brazil but we will have to work with the new President. We will have to build a relationship with that Government. We will be critical of him or any other world leader, if it is appropriate to do so. That is what we try to do, through UN structures and through EU structures, to support multilateralism, to support a rules-based order and to make sure that human rights organisations and NGOs are protected where possible. Our actions have been fairly consistent in that regard.
Whether we like it or not, there is a new President-elect in Brazil. We must judge that person on how he performs as President when he takes office on 1 January and we will do that without fear or favour.